May 16

Airbnb just tried to pressure me into a refund; Here’s what went down…



That was intense…

I’ve just jumped off a phone call with an Airbnb support officer trying to pressurise me into giving a full refund for a guest cancellation due to Covid-19.

And boy did I learn a few things in the process (more on that in a minute).

But before you have a go at me for being a heartless piece of shit just be aware that I totally get it. 

If I was my guest - or Airbnb for that matter - I’d be doing the exact same.

But here’s the thing.

All I’m doing as a host is following the Airbnb cancellation policy that the booking was made under.  And that's it.

So, if you want to find out what went down, read on.

And you never know, if you find yourself in this same position maybe this post will give you the ammo you need to stick to your guns no matter how much Airbnb pumps up the pressure on you to offer refunds above and beyond their policies.

Here’s what went down

Ok, first up as a slight disclaimer, the call was over the phone and not recorded so I’m going to do my best to accurately recount what went down without too much bias from myself, so do bare that in mind. 

And also, I’ll be paraphrasing too.

But before we get to the call, I just want to give you a bit of a back-story of the booking and the situation for you to create your own opinion.

The booking

The booking in question is/was for a weeks stay in August (three months away).  The booking was made on Mon, Oct 14, 2019. 


The terms of the original booking.

The cancellation policy I had in place at the time of booking was "Moderate".  This entitles the host to a partial refund should the guest cancel their bookings.

Moderate Cancellation Policy; Breakdown.

Moderate cancellation policy

Moderate: Full refund up to 5 days before check-in

‘Moderate’ is the most popular cancellation policy.  It reduces a little of the exposure to last minute cancellations for hosts, and offers reasonable flexibility and peace of mind to guests.

As a Host you’ll receive a 50% refund (minus the first nights stay and Airbnb’s service fee) for any booking cancellations 5 days before check-in.

moderate cancellation from the guests side

This is what your guests see when they make a booking.

The Guest

The guest cancelled their booking then reached out to me to request a full refund, understandably not wanting to travel because of concerns about Covid-19.  


I sympathised with my guest but explained that I wouldn’t be able to offer a full refund, but that they could re-schedule for another date if they wanted.

The situation

The guests weren't happy with my response and decided to take it up with Airbnb by opening up a case in the resolution centre to try and get a full refund for their booking.  

Below, I'll take you through what happened on the call, and offer my advice for you if you're in this same situation.

The conversation with Airbnb Support

Ok.  So my guest escalated our exchange to the Airbnb resolution centre to try and get a full refund (I’m not an asshole, and I totally understand her reasoning for this, I’d probably do it too).  

And here’s (roughly) how the conversation went down.

Ring ring…

Airbnb Support: "Hello Rowan.  I’m calling with regards to a recent refund request from a guest in connection with the Covid-19, whose requesting a full refund."

Me: "Yes, I’m familiar with the request.  How can I help."

Airbnb Support: "As you’re aware the world health organisation is imposing many travel restrictions as Covid-19 is disrupting travel for many people.  Your guest is requesting a full refund for their travel dates in August and we’re enquiring to see if you would waiver the cancellation fee for your guests on these dates."

Me: "Yeah, I totally understand the request, I’d do the exact same thing.  However, at this point in time, my objective is just to follow the requirements and recommendations of Airbnb and its policies."

Airbnb Support: "I understand sir, but your guest is concerned about their travel and we think it's reasonable for you to waiver the cancellation fee for this booking, especially in these circumstances."

Me: "I fully understand where you’re coming from, and I’m happy to change my position should Airbnb’s policy change like it did in April, but outside of that, I’m going to honour the agreement and the terms of the booking from when it was made without going outside of the system to resolve it."

Airbnb Support: "Ok Rowan.  I understand your position.  Thank you for your time."

The breakdown

Ok, so when I was attempting to paraphrase the conversation above I realised there’s a lot I couldn’t remember, but the above is a pretty decent representation of what went down - but by no means exact.

With all that being said, here are my three key takeaways from the conversation:


Takeaway 1: Airbnb wasn’t on my side

I felt a decent amount of pressure to give the full refund, even to the point that I thought I might get some penalties on my account. 


Takeaway 2: Get ready for the jargon

The support officer threw a lot of Covid-19/World Health Organisation jargon that was super confusing at me to try and make me compliant. 


Takeaway 3: Stick to your guns

I went into the conversation steadfast that I would exclusively be adhering to Airbnb’s policies and nothing else.  If policy changes, so will my position. But I will only be following along with their written best practices and not interfering in any way.  If I didn’t have this view going in, I think I would have buckled and given a full refund.


It’s a shit situation for all involved, and I’m not trying to glamorise myself for successfully not giving a refund.  In fact I kind of feel pretty shit doing it.


In times like these everyone is just looking out for themselves, and when you’ve had 0% occupancy and a 100% cancellation rate for all bookings for the past few months, I guess you kind of take what you can.

So, in closing.

If you’re in the same position as me here’s my main recommendation: Just steadfastly stick to Airbnb’s policy, and don't let them guilt-trip/pressure you into making a decision you don't want to make.

If you do that, what more can anyone ask for right?



About the author 

Rowan Clifford

Hey, I'm Rowan.  I'm a bit of a nerd, and froth a little too hard when it comes to Airbnb. And, I LOVE anything that makes my life as a host easier and more lucrative (which is pretty much exclusively all I write about on this blog). Tools, tips, tricks and sneaky hacks are my kinda thing...

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  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m goig through something similar with Airbnb right now and it;s been really handy to see how you dealt with it. It’s given me food for thought. Blessing Georgia.

  • You are absolutely correct. I have had very similar conversations with Airbnb, (not because of Covid, but for other reasons for cancelling last minute). Here is my points.

    1. When we have done this, the guest often leaves a scathing review and all “1”s saying they were scammed, there was bugs, or it was a bad place (even though they may never have been on site) etc etc. Airbnb allows these vindictive reviews to stay, even when they are clearly lies and revenge driven. Lies don’t seem to matter to Airbnb. How can a person say the place was dirty when they admit they have never even been to our home, and, the last five reviews say “sparkling clean”??? After one such review, Airbnb froze that account for a few days, saying “your ratings dropped after a recent review… review hosting standards to get higher ratings” Even one time when a guest cancelled and told us they were going to “make us sorry” and give us a bad review if we didn’t refund them, Airbnb told us that their own Extortion Policy would not be in effect, because we did not have their words in writing, even though we had them saying it on a security camera – they refused to look at it, and we had called them and reported it 24 hours before the review was left.

    2. Guest that cancel for any reason, should be subject to the cancellation policy as is. Refunds for any reason should be through a separate refund. Airbnb tries to get the guest to submit an alteration instead to allow the guest to change a 2 week booking to a one night booking so they can cancel. Airbnb also has suggested to guests to try to alter their booking so that it is more than five days away and then cancel so that they are not subject to the cancellation policy.

    3. Reviews need to be changed so that guests that did not arrive at your house, are not reviewing your cleanliness etc, as any review on that is not valid if they have never been there. Reviews for cancellations should be done in a different way – more like an exit interview.

    4. Have all of the relevant Airbnb policies in front of you when you call, and reference them, like you said, as they “Airbnb’s policies”

    • Hey Elaine.

      Some super valid points there. Certainly much room for improvement that’s for sure. And I totally agree with you that reviews for guests that have never actually stayed at your place should be treated totally differently.

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